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Recent editorials published in Indiana newspapers

September 4, 2018

The (Munster) Times. August 31, 2018

Seek out and hold accountable all responsible parties in school gun cases

It’s happening with alarming regularity, and authorities must be holding key contributors to the problem accountable.

On Tuesday, police said they confiscated a gun that a 10-year-old student brought into MacArthur Elementary School in Cedar Lake.

In July, a Griffith High School student entered into a plea deal with prosecutors after carrying a handgun into the high school in February.

Throughout our country, we’re hearing more and more cases of children being caught with guns at school — or worse, using those guns to maim or injure others.

As authorities investigate and pursue charges against the students in these cases — which they must with vigor — they also should be investigating how the guns ended up in the possession of students to begin with.

In the February case in Griffith, the student, Trace T. Robertson, was 18, and therefore an adult, when police say he broke the law by bringing a gun onto school property.

However, in the recent case in Cedar Lake, police and prosecutors should be looking for other responsible parties as well.

Who owns the gun, and how did the 10-year-old obtain it? Cedar Lake police say they’re working to answer those questions.

We’ve all heard accounts of other cases in which students obtained firearms belonging to their parents or other adults.

Those responsible parties also must be held accountable if the evidence leads there.

The problem of gun violence, school shootings and even accidental gun death among children is becoming too great to take this lightly.

Gun owners are responsible for keeping their deadly weapons out of the hands of children, period. They should face charges of negligence for failing to do so, and prosecutors should pursue those charges vigorously.

The stakes are far too high. The safety of our children lies in the balance. This must be taken seriously.

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South Bend Tribune. August 29, 2018

Protect the integrity of Hoosier elections

Voters on both sides of the political aisle are approaching the Nov. 6 general election with concern - and for good reason. No less than the secretary of homeland security has confirmed the government has “seen a willingness and a capability on the part of the Russians” to hack into our election infrastructure, including voter rolls and voting machines.

Congress made $380 million available to help states guard against cyberattacks, but Indiana’s $7.5 million share isn’t enough to provide the security Hoosiers deserve. Secretary of State Connie Lawson announced Indiana will use its federal funds to enhance election security but said those enhancements don’t include voting machines statewide capable of producing a voter-verifiable paper trail.

“The Secretary of State’s office will coordinate and plan with the Indiana General Assembly for future replacement of voting equipment since the required budget to replace direct-recording electronic voting machines without a voter-verified paper trail requires a larger amount than the available 2018 HAVA Elections Security Grant Funds,” Lawson wrote in a letter to the U.S. Election Assistance Commission.

Five percent of the federal grant must be matched with state money. Indiana put $659,000 toward election security improvements.

The League of Women Voters of Indiana is understandably concerned. In a white paper released last month, the league noted Indiana was one of two states - Florida was the other - to receive a grade of F in an assessment of election security done by the left-leaning Center for American Progress. Indiana’s lack of voter-verifiable paper ballots was one factor in the state’s discouraging mark.

“The most important aspect of a voting system, with respect to accuracy, integrity and security, is whether or not it is independently auditable,” according to Verified Voting, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for verifiable elections. “That is, the very prerequisite to accuracy, integrity and security in today’s voting technology is that there be a voter-marked paper ballot, or at least a voter-verifiable paper audit trail, for every vote cast. This ensures that election officials will have something they can use to confirm whether or not the electronic tallies produced by the voting system accurately reflected the intention of the voters.”

Allen County’s voting machines, now more than a decade old, are certified by the Election Assistance Commission to 2002 federal standards. They were upgraded last year to “the highest level available that is produced by the vendor and certified by both the federal and state certification programs,” according to Beth Dlug, Allen County director of elections.

“I feel like the League of Women Voters’ call for paper verifiable ballots and audited election results are an important part of the conversation we should be having at this time regarding election security,” she said Thursday. “Part of that conversation includes understanding that paper ballots have their own vulnerabilities.”

Dlug said the county’s machines always have had a paper trail of each vote that can be audited to ensure accuracy.

“In addition to manual testing and audits, our voting machines will now be electronically audited for physical and cybersecurity intrusions, both pre-election and post-election. Our voting machines, tabulation systems and programming systems are not connected to the internet, and that is an important part of what works for us right now,” she said.

“But in the end, we must have processes in place that people can have confidence in.”

Dlug, who is co-chair of the election committee for the Indiana Executive Council on Cybersecurity, said she can attest to the state’s efforts to enact best practices in election security.

“I can also confirm that major upgrades have already taken place to improve elections security. We must continue to push for centralized standards and enhanced controls to detect any intrusion across the state,” she said.

Dlug is right. With demonstrated threats to the security and integrity of our elections, paper ballots should serve as a backup to hackable election software statewide. Unfortunately, that won’t be an option in time for the November elections.

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The (Fort Wayne) Journal Gazette. August 31, 2018

Vote security must include non-digital record

The security and integrity of the U.S. electoral process became a big issue in the wake of the 2016 election. It prompted reviews, reassessments and re-evaluations of voting systems nationwide.

Indiana has responded appropriately to the matter by assuring the public that proper precautions are being taken to secure the vote ahead of the Nov. 6 general election.

There certainly is a level of anxiety among voters that should be addressed, but Hoosiers need to understand that there was no evidence of significant voter fraud in the 2016 election, at least not of the type that involved physical manipulation of voting systems or violating election laws.

As the Indiana Secretary of State’s office pointed out this week, no piece of Indiana’s voting equipment is online. The machines and tabulators are not connected to the internet, and a mechanism known as the Voting System Technical Oversight Program hosted by Ball State University tests all of the election equipment used in Indiana for an added layer of safety and security.

We are confident, and voters should be, that the election infrastructure is sound and reasonably protected from outside threats. The potential for attacks on the system may always exist, but an actual attack is unlikely.

While it’s wise for the state to give the issue attention, it should also be considering making laws more friendly to would-be voters. The registration period for new voters or those who need to update their registration is Oct. 9, a full month before Election Day. Given modern technology, there is no good reason for the registration deadline to be so early, long before most people are even tuning into the fact that an election is coming up. What’s more, the 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. voting period on Election Day is among the shortest in the country. Extending the time when polls are open on Election Day would make voting more convenient for more people.

The creation of vote centers and early voting sites have helped in Indiana. They have certainly helped in Vigo County. Expanding those offerings should always be under consideration.

Adequate infrastructure is crucial to having a secure voting system. Reasonable laws are vital to ensuring that voters have convenient access to registration and polling places.

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The (Anderson) Herald Bulletin. August 31, 2018

It’s time to standardize elections across the nation

While Indiana’s secretary of state and her opponent in November’s election spar over the use of $8.2 million to improve the security of voting, what Hoosiers and Americans everywhere really need is a system that bolsters both convenience and security.

Secretary of State Connie Lawson last week announced plans to use $7.5 million in federal funding and about $700,000 in state money for election infrastructure, third-party testing, email encryption and training for state and county officials.

Indiana was one of five states to receive an “F″ grade from the Center for American Progress, which assessed security of elections in 2016. The failing grade was based, in part, on the fact that some of the state’s voting machines don’t generate paper ballots for verification.

Lawson estimated a price tag as high as $36 million to purchase voting machines with paper verification for use across Indiana.

Democratic candidate for secretary of state Jim Harper criticized Lawson for not directing the federal windfall toward the purchase of voting machines that would generate a paper trail.

After the general election, Lawson, Harper and election officials across the country should take a few steps away from the issue and look at it with fresh eyes.

What the country really needs, for both convenience and security, is a truly integrated, uniform voting system.

Voting machines, processes and laws differ from state to state and, often, from county to county. And it’s a system that nearly everywhere across the nation relies on the old-fashioned Election Day model.

Early voting and absentee voting are staples, giving people options to standing in line at the polls on election day.

But the entire system should be overhauled. With digital technology, why couldn’t people vote online from their homes or from kiosks in public places over the course of a month? Why couldn’t they vote while they’re traveling or visiting another state or even another country?

Yes, a foolproof system to assure that the voter is identified would be needed. And, yes, a sophisticated security system would be needed to keep Russians or anyone else from hacking the election.

But it would be far easier to protect the integrity of a uniform, consistent national system for conducting elections, rather than the current piecemeal state-by-state, locality-by-locality model.

We have the technology to make elections more convenient, more streamlined and more secure. It’s time to throw away the old model and start from scratch.

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